Stuttering versus cluttering: What’s the difference?


by Baylor Scott & White Health

Jul 7, 2017

Many of us are familiar with stuttering — that frustrating moment when you’re trying to speak, but the words won’t come out right.

But what about cluttering? Cluttering also affects a person’s ability to communicate. Stuttering and cluttering may seem similar, but there are important differences.

What is Stuttering?

Stuttering is a disruption in the flow of conversation or speech. It is an involuntary repetition or prolongation of sounds or syllables. Stuttering is most often an audible occurrence, but it can also present itself silently. Stuttering is not readily controllable and may be accompanied by other movements.

Emotions of negative nature such as fear, embarrassment or irritation can also initiate stuttering. Strictly speaking, stuttering is a symptom, not a disease, but the term stuttering usually refers to both the disorder and symptom. The stutterer is doing the opposite of what a normal speaker would do — they are trying to talk while breathing in instead of while breathing out. This lack of air directly contributes to the stuttering.

What is Cluttering?

Cluttering, on the other hand, is a disorder of both speech and language processing that can affect your ability to communicate clearly. It frequently results in rapid, unorganized and often unintelligible speech. In other words, very fast and jerky speech.

Individuals who suffer from cluttering may not even know it.

People who clutter are often told to “slow down” or “quit mumbling,” and as a result, they may not be properly diagnosed until later in life.

The Clutterer versus the Stutterer

A person who clutters…

  • Talks better under stress
  • Talks better when interrupted
  • Talks better on longer sentences
  • Talks better in a foreign language
  • Reads unfamiliar text better
  • Doesn’t seem to care how he/she talks
  • Doesn’t have remissions in his/her speech disorder
  • Talks worse when calm
  • Doesn’t pay attention to what is said
  • Is unaware of his/her speech

Can they co-exist?

Yes! A patient may show symptoms of both disorders together.
In that case, he or she is then classified as a clutterer-stutterer and will typically show: word-finding difficulty, poor reading abilities, poor memory, poor storytelling abilities, and interestingly, superior skills in math and science.

How do we treat both disorders?

Treatment for stuttering disorder is not easy since we don’t really know the exact cause. We can try to manipulate the speech production by training the brain to recreate a desired outcome — this includes changing speech patterns, which is clinically proven to help patients, and teaching muscle relaxation. Changing breathing patterns can also be beneficial for patients who get a hoarse voice due to stuttering.

Treatment for cluttering can be even harder and differs from treatment of stuttering. We start by working on the patient’s awareness of the speech disorder. Then, we can teach oral-motor coordination exercises to stop the mumbling effect. There are also relaxation drills, organizational language treatments, memory strategies and rate control techniques that have been clinically proven to help a lot of patients with cluttering disorder.

If you have more questions, please contact Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation – Home Health at 972-691-3131 and ask about our speech therapy options.


Wingate, M.E. (1964). A Standard Definition of Stuttering, The Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders. 1964.

Daly, D.A. (1993). Cluttering: Another Fluency Syndrome. In R. Curlee (ed) Stuttering and Related Disorders of Fluency. New York: Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc. 1993.

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